Testing Digifort's VMS (Version 6.3)

By Benros Emata, Published on Mar 06, 2010

As video management software matures, more choices are emerging from around the globe. In the past year, we have heard increasing discussion about the use of Digifort [link no longer available], a company based in Brazil, now expanding internationally.

In this test, we examine Digifort's Enterprise VMS version 6.3 [link no longer available]. The test was hosted on a Windows 7 machine, connected to the IQinVision Series 4, Axis Q1755 and Panasonic NP502 cameras. 

Our key findings include:

  • Simple layout of live and administrative functionalities makes use easy for untrained users
  • Investigation workflow requirements can cause confusion or errors
  • Numerous advanced options though many are restricted to particular software versions

For background and additional details, Digifort offers detailed downloadable documentation [link no longer available] with many screenshots for visual aid.

Key Notable Features

  • All configuration options provided in a tree hierarchy in the administration client provides simple workflow and easy to find settings
  • Map integration provides useful visual monitoring in the live view
  • Broad 3rd party IP camera support provides great flexibility
  • Support for Windows 7 and 64 bit OS versions allow use of the most recent computing platforms

Key Limitations

  • Lacks enterprise user management
  • Lacks third party access control integration
  • Lacks event management
  • Extensive camera configuration settings can be confusing
  • Strict workflow can be confusing for the investigator/operator
  • Many advanced features are restricted to specific versions

Computing Platform

Digifort supports the following Windows platforms:  Server 2003, Server 2008, XP Pro and Vista - additional support for 64-bit operating Windows systems listed.

Digifort recommends using a completely separate hard drive for recording and to not use the same disk as the Windows operating system.

A single download will provide the administrator with the server and client software.

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Third Party Support

Digifort provides a broad range of support for third party IP cameras and video servers [link no longer available]. Support extends to both recent big name manufacturer products as well as more niche products.

[link no longer available]Pricing and Product Versions

Digifort offers 4 product versions. Users must carefully understand the differences as the variance in both pricing and functionality is quite large. Digifort offers 4 versions with varying functionality as shown in their comparison table [link no longer available]. Their comparison table is very long and includes many features available in all versions. We created a comparison table that only lists features that vary amongst versions to help us understand the differences.

Each of the 4 vary by the maximum number of video channels they support. This ranges from lowest to highest version in the following order: 16, 32, 64 and unlimited. Note: the unlimited version is a licensing per server. Of course, practical limitations on server load and network capacity will restrict total camera count on any server.

In addition to maximum channel count, each version differs by types of functionality enabled. Unlike most VMS systems, Digifort restricts many specific functionalities to certain versions (Digifort breaks out over 50 functionalities whose ability varies by version).

For instance, the entry level 16 channel version (called Explorer [link no longer available]) does not offer PTZ control, does not support events and limited advance functionality for live monitoring.

As another example, a number of low level functionalities are available in the 64 channel version (called Professional [link no longer available]) but not the 32 channel version (called Standard [link no longer available]). For instance, the 64 channel version supports alarm inputs/outputs, creating views, joystick control and recording by events while the 32 channel version does not.

We find this confusing and recommend you carefully review what functionalities are licensed for the version you choose.

Digifort offers pricing based on base licenses that include support for 4 - 8 camera and additional camera packs (from 4 - 32 channels per pack). With this noted, here are estimates for common usage:

  • $45 MSRP per channel Explorer (assuming 16 channels)
  • $85 MSRP per channel Standard (assuming 32 channels)
  • $115 MSRP per channel Professional (assuming 64 channels)
  • $165 MSRP per channel Enterprise (assuming 64 channels)

Usability of the VMS system

The following screencast provides usability highlights of Digifort's VMS, in addition to items we found challenging.

Key points include:

  • Useful batch configuration options via right-click
  • Useful real-time monitoring graphs
  • Challenge:  strict workflow for investigators
  • Challenge:  extensive number of camera configuration tabs
  • Challenge:  Video panes not dynamic
  • Challenge:  'Screenstyles' are independent of each other 

Administration of the VMS system

The following screencast examines how to configure/setup Digifort's VMS system. 

Key points include:

  • Logical workflow from the top-down (00:50 min)
  • Three main tabs for camera configuration (1:20 min)
  • Bulk configuration options available but not documented (3:30 min)
  • Creating maps to integrate in the Surveillance client (4:10 min)
  • Extensive number of camera configuration tabs can overwhelm untrained users (6:00 min)
  • Bulk user permissions configurations (13:30 min)
  • Creating custom 'Screenstyles' (19:42 min)

Live Monitoring of the VMS system

The following screencast examines monitoring live video with Digifort's VMS software. 

Key points include:

  • Surveillance client preferences (4:00 min)
  • Maps integrated into the live view (9:00 min)
  • Working with 'screenstyles' (14:00 min)
  • Proportional camera zoom (16:00 min)

Investigation of the VMS system

The following screencast examines how to conduct investigations with Digifort's VMS software.

Key points include:

  • Strictly following the top-down workflow
  • Multi-tasking within the investigation mode
  • Optimizing motion searching
  • Digital zoom proportionally with multiple cameras

Basic Use (Live and Recorded Video)

How do I watch live video?

The default view of the client application is with the virtual matrix displayed. To enable desired cameras to load upon login, the user of the individual client will need to access the configuration menu and check the box, "Remember the last view selected upon opening the system"

What ways can I monitor many video feeds simultaneously?

With multiple or single servers, Digifort provides an Object and Server view that allows the operator to choose various entities to load into the virtual matrix. Object would include cameras, custom views, maps, etc.

Alternatively, the user can toggle between the Object view and Servers view to choose in a more logical fashion based on the associated host of the objects.

How can I be notified and review alarms?

Depending on the configuration of the associated alarm action, Digifort offers several notification options:

  1. "Send an e-mail to a group of persons in the event of an alarm"
  2. "Display camera images in the operator's screen." This allows the administrator to choose what cameras to be displayed.
  3. "Sound an alarm in the surveillance client"
  4. "Send an instant message to the operator's computer

Note - There is no events or notification pane within the client software

How do I search for recorded video? 

Searching is conducted via the Media Player mode within the client software. A new window will pop-up and the operator has access to several playback options; some that include multicamera selection, a timeline view, exporting, etc.

What ways can I search multiple video feeds?

Upon accessing the Media Player mode, the operator can choose cameras from a single or multiple server environment. This is assuming they have proper permissions to access the other servers - the objects become visible in the object/server pane, allowing the user to choose what entities to load in the archived mode.

How do you share images from video?

In live view, use the secondary mouse button and choose "Screenshot." Additionally, in Media Playback mode, use the secondary mouse button and choose "Save Image."

How do you share video clips from recorded video?

The Media Playback mode offers a logical workflow from the top down starting with the time selection, later followed by an 'Media Exporting' button.

The export will create a folder to a specified directory with multiple files and an executable to launch the Digifort player.

How do I know if I am in live or recorded video mode?

In recorded mode, the interface provides a separate window pop-up and the title of the window is "Digifort Media Player" so it will be very obvious to the user.

How do you switch between live video, investigations and configuration?

From the Live mode, the user can click the "Media Player" icon at the bottom left of the interface to access investigation mode. To configure the system, the administrator will need to launch the administration client where all configuration options reside.

How do I add/setup a camera?

From the administration client, it is one of the first configuration icons within the structure tree on the left. 

After choosing to add a camera, a new window pops-up with the complete configuration options separated in tabs.

How do you restrict access to the system?

The administrator must add users and groups to each server within the surveillance system.

Within each user/group settings, lower level permissions can be configured to permit or restrict access such as:  exporting of stored videos, allow PTZ controls, server configurations, etc.

How can you setup the VMS to handle failures to servers/appliances?

Digifort does not offer any integrated fail-over features

How can you access reports or alerts on the health status of the servers/appliances applications?

Within the tree hierarchy of each server, there is a Server Monitoring feature that provides real-time graphs on items such as processor, memory, bandwidth utilization, etc.

How can you upgrade the VMS software?

The software must be installed via an executable requiring the administrator to close the applications, upgrade and re-launch.

What, if any, VMS functionalities regularly take more than 10 seconds to load?

Both the client and administrator software have proved to be very responsive.

What happens when the VMS client cannot connect to a camera?

On the live screen, a message will be displayed stating an attempt to reconnect with the camera. Optionally, this can be turned off from the client side. Assuming the operator has proper permissions to access the client configuration menu, they can drill into the "Live Surveillance" menu and uncheck the box for "Show reconnection message." 

In an environment where the connection is unstable, it may be preferred to be off.

What options does the VMS provide to reduce storage consumption?

The system administrator can limit storage consumed by the camera via the following options:

  • Limit number of days
  • Limit by hours
  • Limit by disk size

Additionally, the server can be limited on recording simply by size allocation.

What help functionality does the VMS provide while using the client?

There is no help text or help menu within the client/administration software.

How similar is the use of the VMS client to a DVR?

The client software is like a DVR as it runs in full screen by default, completely on top of the Windows toolbar, most functionality is represented via on-screen buttons; however, functionality differs from a DVR as there is integration with maps, motions search, etc.

How simple is it for an untrained operator?

If the untrained operator's roles are limited to surveillance only, then the software is fairly straightforward to use.

If the untrained operator is required to conduct any configurations, the extensive menu options would require a higher level of technical knowledge and training.

Scalability Questions

What ways can I add/setup many cameras at the same time?

Cameras cannot be added/setup in a bulk fashion; although, can be configured via bulk configuration feature. This is accessed after selecting multiple cameras in the administration client and using the secondary mouse button.

How do you restrict access when using multiple servers/appliances?

There is no central user management so scalability is limited. The administrator would be required to add each user/group and configure permissions on each server.

How can I watch live video feeds from different appliances/servers?

Assuming the operator has proper permissions to access the server list, in the client application, the operator can add multiple servers to the object list. This will provide access to the cameras associated to various servers and cameras can be dragged-and-dropped into the viewing area.

How can I conduct searches from video feeds stored in different appliances/servers?

Similar to the previous answer, the investigator can choose different cameras from various servers.

Recommendations

Digifort's Enterprise VMS is a best fit for those who want broad IP camera support and advanced configuration options and do not have a large number of sites or high security requirements. The pricing ranges from very low to moderately high. This varies significantly depending on the version selected.

Key elements that might impact your purchasing decision:
  • Positive: Broad interoperability with IP cameras at a fairly low price (especially for 16 or 32 camera sites).
  • Negative: Lack of 'enterprise' features such as global user management and third party integration can be issues for larger or more security conscious organizations.

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